UK opposes immediate ceasefire in Yemen port of Hodeidah at UN as coalition forces close in

The UN Security Council has rejected a call to immediately end fighting in Yemen’s Hodeidah, as Saudi-led forces look poised to take the city’s airport.

The UK and US, which support the Arab coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, both voiced opposition to the motion brought by Sweden, one the council’s 15 members.

The council instead “urged all sides to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law” and called for the port, a vital aid route for 70 per cent of Yemen’s food, to be kept open.

Forces of the western-backed coalition have advanced to within feet of the airport, though no fighting has yet taken place in the city of Hodeidah itself.

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This image grab taken from a video shows Yemeni pro-government forces gathering at the south of Hodeida airport, in Yemen's Hodeida province Credit:
AFP

The Yemeni government reported dozens of fighters had been killed by landmines and roadside bombs laid by Houthi rebels near the airport’s entrance. 

Karen Pierce, the UK ambassador to the UN, said: “We make our own decisions in the security council and we make them on the basis of the British national interest including wider issues of security. The most important aspect is to secure a political settlement.”

Hodeidah has been controlled by the rebels since 2014, when they drove the government out of the capital Sanaa and much of the country, prompting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The UN’s refusal to call for a ceasefire left open the possibility of a direct attack on the port, although officials are hoping a last-minute deal between warring parties could halt a full-scale assault.

Woman sits with her sons while they are treated at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, YemenCredit:
Reuters

Capturing Hodeidah would give the Arab coalition the upper hand in the war, in which neither side has made much progress since it intervened in 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government in exile.

It would deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from bringing in missiles, dozens of which have been fired at Saudi Arabia.

But aid agencies have warned the world’s worst humanitarian disaster will only worsen if the coalition attacks the city, which is home to some 400,000 people.

David Miliband, chief executive of the International Rescue Committee speaking on the BBC Today programme, said an attack on the port would lead to “a great danger of besiegement and long-term urban warfare”.

A girl shouts at a charity kitchen, which gives free food rations for the poor, in SanaaCredit:
Reuters

“The immiseration of the Yemeni people is quite extraordinary,” he said. “Twenty-two million in need of humanitarian need; eight million at risk of starvation; 50,000 died last year from cholera or cholera-related diseases.”

Sensitive over public anger over the offensive, Saudi’s UN ambassador said that two ships, each carrying 5,000 tons of food, were ready to dock.

The US meanwhile rejected a plea from the United Arab Emirates for intelligence and reconnaissance for the battle.

The Trump administration is under pressure at home to limit support for the three-year-old war, which has seen hundreds of civilian casualties.

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